Niche shifts after long-distance dispersal events in bipolar sedges (Carex, Cyperaceae)


Bipolar species represent the greatest biogeographical disjunction on Earth, raising many questions about the colonization and adaptive processes behind such striking distribution. We investigated climatic niche differences of five Carex bipolar species in North and South America to assess niche shifts between these two regions. Moreover, we assessed potential distribution changes with future climate change. We used 1202 presence data points from herbarium specimens and 19 bioclimatic variables to assess climatic niche differences and potential distributions among the five species using ordination methods and Maxent. The niche overlap analyses showed low levels of niche filling and high climatic niche expansion between North and South America. Carex macloviana and C. maritima showed the greatest niche expansion (60% and 96%, respectively), followed by C. magellanica (45%) and C. microglochin (39%). Only C. canescens did not colonize new environments (niche expansion = 0.2%). In contrast, all species but C. magellanica had niche filling that was <40%; hence, they are absent in the south from many environments they inhabit in North America. Climate change will push all species toward higher latitudes and elevation, reducing the availability of suitable environments. The colonization of South America seems to have involved frequent climatic niche shifts. Most species have colonized new environments from those occupied in the North. Observed niche shifts appear congruent with time since colonization and with current genetic structure within species. In these cold-dwelling species, climate change will most likely decrease their suitable environments in the future.

American Journal of Botany

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